Original Research

Seeking care for epilepsy and its impacts on households in a rural district in southern Malawi

Alister Munthali, Stine H. Braathen, Lisbet Grut, Yusman Kamaleri, Benedicte Ingstad
African Journal of Disability | Vol 2, No 1 | a54 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v2i1.54 | © 2013 Alister Munthali, Stine H. Braathen, Lisbet Grut, Yusman Kamaleri, Benedicte Ingstad | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 January 2013 | Published: 30 September 2013

About the author(s)

Alister Munthali, Centre for Social Research, University of Malawi, Malawi
Stine H. Braathen, SINTEF Technology and Society, Oslo, Norway
Lisbet Grut, SINTEF Technology and Society, Oslo, Norway
Yusman Kamaleri, SINTEF Technology and Society, Oslo, Norway
Benedicte Ingstad, Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway


Background: Epilepsy is a disability as defined in the 2012 Disability Act of the Government of Malawi.

Objectives: This article explores the health-seeking behaviour of people with epilepsy in a rural town in southern Malawi and how having a person with epilepsy impacts on the households’ productivity.

Method: A snowball approach was used to identify persons with various forms of disabilities. The article is based on a bigger study carried out in Malawi which explored how persons with disabilities seek health care. In this bigger study, a total of 63 interviews were done with persons with disabilities or their guardians. Eight of the 63 interviews were with persons with epilepsy and this article is based on these interviews.

Results: The study found that persons with epilepsy seek both traditional and modern medicines to treat the condition. Informants mentioned that barriers to accessing western treatment include lack of medicines, congestion at health facilities, lack of knowledge about epilepsy, misdiagnosis by health workers and the belief that epilepsy caused by witchcraft cannot be treated by western medicine. The study also highlights the wider impacts of epilepsy on the household such as the failure of children to attend school, children dropping out of school, stigma and discrimination and households being driven deeper into poverty as a result of seeking care for members with epilepsy.

Conclusion: The existing barriers to accessing treatment for epilepsy can be addressed by using a combination of public education, simple treatments and regular reviews. Ensuring constant availability of drugs for the treatment of epilepsy is key to effective treatment of the condition. This would contribute to closing the treatment gap for epilepsy as advocated by the Global Campaign against Epilepsy.


Disability; epilepsy; poverty; household productivity; Malawi


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Crossref Citations

1. Parent-carers of children with physical disabilities in a rural South African setting: Their cultural and social resourcing
Marubini Christinah Sadiki, Israel Kibirige
Journal of Psychology in Africa  vol: 30  issue: 4  first page: 336  year: 2020  
doi: 10.1080/14330237.2020.1796029